Protect your garden beds and containers in cold weather.

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As winter sets in across the South, take precautionary measures to safeguard plants from freezing temperatures. Plants are damaged when ice forms in their cells, causing tissues to die and their leaves to turn brown, shriveled, and mushy. One of the best ways to preserve your garden beds is to select hardy plants that can survive cold weather in your zone. Don’t let all the hard work you put into landscaping go to waste when winter frost hits and protect cold-sensitive plants from artic air.

Before planting, figure out which spots in your garden will be warmest and coldest, and plant hardy and tender plants accordingly. You can also prep your plants throughout the year by fertilizing them appropriately, as healthy plants will be in better shape for tolerating colder temperatures.

Protect containers by moving them to a covered area or indoors before frost sets in. If they aren’t able to be moved, cover the entire container with plastic or burlap (wrapping the base helps reduce heat loss).

For garden beds filled with sensitive plants, start preparing them in autumn by mulching with organic material. You can also put down a layer of mulch (like pine straw or ground bark) over perennials or bulbs that aren’t hardy in your zone. If it hasn’t rained before a frost, water the beds a day before extreme cold hits; wet soil holds in more heat, so roots will be more insulated and less likely to be harmed by a freeze. Garden beds can also be shielded with row covers, bed sheets, or blankets, but remove them when temperatures begin to rise the next day.

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For cool-weather veggies such as broccoli, greens, and cabbage, place a layer of floating row cover over them to protect against freezing temps and prevent foliage burn or splitting. (Row covers can protect plants from temperatures as low as 28 degrees.) Secure the row covers to the crowd with bricks. To defend your crops against the cold even better, add a double layer. Cloches can also be used to shield plants, or cover them in a blanket of pine straw for the night.

Plants such as azaleas, boxwoods, camellias, and hollies also need extra protection during the winter. Add a layer of mulch (pine bark or pine straw) around the base of these shrubs after the first frost.